Design Milk Travels to… Raleigh (Durham & Chapel Hill)

02.28.17 | By
Design Milk Travels to… Raleigh (Durham & Chapel Hill)

When you hear the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, mentioned, it’ll oftentimes be followed up with Durham and Chapel Hill, that’s because the three cities form a triangle on a map dubbing them the ‘Triangle,’ or the Research Triangle Park, if you want to get technical. That’s because the area is booming with high-tech research and development companies, hence the ‘research’ part of the name, along with three top universities – Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and NC State. And while the area is home to a plethora of buttoned up businesses, it also has a slowly emerging underbelly of a creative scene. We’re focusing on Raleigh, but since the three cities are so intertwined and not that far from each other (about 20-30 minutes), we’ll be covering a little bit from Durham and Chapel Hill, too.


The Longleaf Hotel

The Longleaf Hotel: This mid-century getaway comes after a massive renovation that turned a vintage motor lodge into a modern gem on the cusp of downtown Raleigh in early 2020. All 57 guest rooms were overhauled for the 21st century while giving nod to its 1960s motor lodge roots. [Raleigh]

21c Hotel Durham \\\ Photo courtesy of 21c Hotel Durham

21c Hotel Durham \\\ Photo courtesy of 21c Hotel Durham

21c Museum Hotel Durham: Housed in a historic building in downtown Durham, this boutique hotel features 125-rooms and a contemporary art museum under the same roof. The brand launched its first hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 2006 and has slowly been expanding its unique hotel vision to other cities. [Durham]

Photo courtesy of Commune

The Durham Hotel \\\ Photo courtesy of Commune

The Durham Hotel: A modern, 53-room boutique hotel with a mid-century aesthetic designed by LA-based firm Commune. The hotel opened in 2015 after the renovation of the structure which was once the old Home Savings and Loan bank built in 1966. [Durham]




NCMA – North Carolina Museum of Art: Along with a permanent collection, the museum rotates exhibitions throughout the year and during the summer months, they show outdoor movies on their lawn and have concerts. [Raleigh]

CAM Raleigh – Contemporary Art Museum: Located in downtown Raleigh, CAM curates rotating exhibitions and experiences from emerging and established artists and designers. On the first Friday of every month, admission is free to everyone. [Raleigh]

First Friday: On the first Friday of every month, art galleries, museums, art studios, shops, and alternative venues open their doors to welcome anyone that’s out for the free, self-guided tour around downtown. [Raleigh]

Lump: An artist-run gallery located in downtown Raleigh with a focus on thought-provoking contemporary art from up-and-coming and established artists. [Raleigh]

Photo courtesy of Nasher Museum Blogs, via Flickr

Nasher Museum of Art \\\ Photo courtesy of Nasher Museum Blogs, via Flickr

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University: Duke’s Nasher has been around for just over 10 years and is housed within a modern, 65,000 square foot structure designed by Rafael Viñoly. Along with events, lectures, gatherings, and a film series, the museum boasts a substantial permanent collection of contemporary art, with a focus on work by artists of African descent. [Durham]

LIGHT: Art + Design: A gallery that promotes the work of various contemporary artist with an awareness that focuses on sustainable design. [Chapel Hill]

Photo by © Jeff Goldberg/Esto

James B. Hunt Jr. Library \\\ Photo by © Jeff Goldberg/Esto

James B. Hunt Jr. Library: NC State hired Snøhetta to design their second main library on the university’s Centennial Campus and it opened in 2013. Even if you’re not a student, it’s worth checking out just as a spectator. [Raleigh]

Thirst4Architecture: A series of networking events that bring together hundreds of modern design-loving people around the Triangle for an informal happy hour evening. [Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and other various locations]

North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH): Did you know that NC has the 3rd largest concentration of modernist houses in the U.S.? Most people would never suspect that until they begin driving through neighborhoods and spotting the modern architectural gems that are scattered throughout. NCMH has done a beautiful job documenting the history of every modern master throughout the state. Besides scouring their archives, they organize tours and trips to check them out in person. [Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and other various locations]

Hopscotch Design Festival: Running alongside its sister event, the famed Hopscotch Music Festival, this one focuses on design, bringing in designers, makers, architects, thinkers, and anyone else who has a hand in shaping the design world, to speak and discuss all things design.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: 2017 will mark the festival’s 20th year. Every year, they welcome filmmakers (and film lovers) from all over for a four-day event that shows nearly 100 films, discussions, and panels. [Durham]


The Curatory

The Curatory

The Curatory at the Raleigh Denim Workshop: Raleigh Denim, a denim brand that focuses on American craftsmanship, has their very own shop attached to their workshop that not only sells their jeans, but a range of highly curated goods, including clothing, accessories, gifts, and stationery, that the owners have discovered on their travels. [Raleigh]

Port of Raleigh \\\ Photo courtesy of Port of Raleigh

Port of Raleigh \\\ Photo courtesy of Port of Raleigh

Port of Raleigh: A curated shop of design-focused, modern goods from all over the world that will help everyone elevate the look of their home. [Raleigh]

Ambiente: This modern store has been around for over 30 years and began as a Scandinavian design store. Over the years they’ve expanded to include designs from all over the world and now work with more than 200 manufacturers. [Raleigh]

Photo courtesy of Father and Son

Photo courtesy of Father and Son

Father and Son: This vintage shop in downtown Raleigh carries the best selection of mid-century modern furniture you could ever ask for. [Raleigh]

Area Modern Home: They specialize in locally handmade modern upholstered furniture, while also featuring top modern brands for purchase in their showroom. [Durham]

Palette & Parlor: A showroom catering to the best American and European furniture brands, including Knoll, Fritz Hansen, Carl Hansen & Son, Kartell, and Vitra, along with locally made offering and work from emerging brands like PELLE and Bend. [Chapel Hill]


If you visit Raleigh, hit up Humble Pie and Poole’s Diner for dinner, in Durham, visit The Durham, or if you find yourself in Chapel Hill, try Lantern – you won’t regret it!

Did we miss anything? Add your favorite stops in Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill in the comments below!

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.